September 1, 2002

Noise Free America
For immediate release

Ted Rueter
[email protected]

Madison:¬†Rochester, New York has won September’s Noisy Dozen award from Noise Free America for its dismal failure to solve its boom car problem, despite the apparent good intentions of civic officials.

James Kaufmann, founder of the Rochester Soundscape Society, said that “Rochester citizens live in a world of constant rumble, thump, and boom. This is puzzling, given that we have a law (Code 75-12) which declares amplified sound audible at fifty feet or more from a vehicle in a public street to be illegal and subject to ticketing and towing.”

Rochester’s Mayor, William Johnson, seems to understand the gravity of the problem. On May 30, 2001, he wrote that “when one of these vehicles cruises down a street, 100 or more homes may be subjected to its noise pollution.” He raised Rochester’s hopes for peace and quiet when he stated, “Just as police radar detectors get people to slow down, Noise Enforcement details can get people to turn the volume down.”

But a year and a half later, Rochester’s soundscape is still miserable. Area composer Mark Olivieri describes a typical incident, driving down Main Street, with his wife and infant: “We heard and felt this extremely low frequency, powerful sound. When you roll up your windows, and you still have to plug your baby’s ears to protect against damage, you have a serious problem.”

Kaufmann has collected over 160 signatures of City of Rochester and Monroe County residents who feel the boom car situation is unreasonable, and sent it to the Mayor, City Council, and Chief of Police. “Chief Duffy called me personally to express his support,” he said. “I commend him for his apparent commitment.”

Some, however, are more skeptical. Athel Smiley, a city homeowner, recently documented the license plates of 37 vehicles with excessively loud stereos in one hour’s time on Arnett Boulevard: We can only get a small percentage of them, because they pass by so fast.” During this time, he saw only one police car, which drove by a parked boom car without doing anything about it.

Kaufmann noted that Rochester has a special interest in solving its noise problem–its musical tradition. Boom cars manage to penetrate such well-isolated spaces as the Ciminelli Lounge, Howard Hanson Hall, the Hochstein Performance Hall, and the world-renowned Kilbourn Hall, making a mockery out of student recitals and community performances by stealing precious quiet moments in the music.

Courtney Richards, one of Rochester’s many music lovers, says she attends concerts at Kilbourn Hall “and can hear boom cars and other loud vehicles clearly while the concert is in progress. These noises detract greatly from the quality of the experience and are surely frustrating to the performers.”

According to Kaufmann, “With so many committed people, and with so much at stake, Rochester should be able to tame the boom car monster. Let the whole world watch to see if it has thecourage and tenacity to do so. Until then, the soundtrack of its residents’ lives, indoors and out, will be the same.”

Noise Free America is a national citizens group dedicated to reducing noise pollution. Its web site is Previous “winners” of the award include Circuit City and West Hollywood.